To whomever is reading this, I may or may not know you, but hopefully you'll know me when I'm done. The question is where to start. Let's try the beginning, even if I don't know my end.
I've always been a ghetto kid, and if you don't know what I mean, let's just say welfare kid, it'll be easier for some to understand. I was blessed with an amazing mother, which is probably the main reason I turned out different than most. I have an older brother and sister, but as you'll find out, it wasn't any help. My brother Dustin has been what I call a "career criminal" - nearly all his life. At age 8, he stole a cop car (believe me or don't), and it only escalated from there. He loved stealing cars and was in the paper (more than once) for being in the top 10 most wanted car thieves. They've tried getting him for easily over 100 bank robberies - among other things. But before you think you know him, just because you know his rap sheet, try to know the person beneath those words. I hope you'll know me better than these words can reach: He's an artist, a craftsman, and a poet. He is amazing at all of them, and it’s sad he's trapped in the habits of his nature, but it’s all he knows.
My sister, though, what can I say about her? Let's start with the little things, her name is Amanda, though I've only heard doctors call her that - everyone calls her "Kitty". I think it’s because when she was 12 she got a tattoo of the Puma symbol on her stomach. I've been told that as a little girl, she was near genius and loved to sing, but I never got to witness it. The only things I seen her love were alcohol, lying and drugs. At least, until after she jumped from my 4th floor apartment with all of us in the house. She cracked, broke and shattered over 26 bones - including her skull. Most people naturally try to brace their fall, but she didn't - instead, she did a "sheer swan dive" because she was extremely intoxicated and high. And due to this, they wanted to arrest my mom, thinking that she pushed her. Kitty has recovered, and is a very different person, who is now capable of taking care of her daughter, Mary.
I've almost forgot a little someone, before I tell you about me: my Dad. I never knew him or even seen his face. What I do know is that his name is Vern Livingstone. He loves heroin and drove tow trucks. And that is all.
So it just leaves me, "William Velour DuGray", born January 17, 1995. For most of my early years I was quite shy, I loved spelling and reading (or at least, being able to read difficult things). In grade 8, I decided to go to an alternative school and enrolled in Street Front. I wasn't forced, I chose it. I was extremely quiet, only spoke when spoken to, and even then, only one-word answers. That was also when I started smoking weed. At first just on weekends, then gradually it progressed to everyday, multiple times a day. I could smoke $100 worth of weed a day. There was a running joke that if you cut me, I'd bleed green.
At the end of grade 8, I started running 5km, and then eventually 10km with my school. In 9th grade, I ran my first half marathon (21km) - that’s around the time I heard about Yo Bro and met Joe Calendino. To me he was a badass ex-biker who was goanna teach me to fight - who would've known how my life was going to change. Joe connected with me and everyone around him because he believed in what he was doing, in his dreams and most of all - in us. Eventually I became a committed student to Yo Bro, not just for the martial arts, but to listen. I wanted to believe I could be more than a ghetto kid, that I could accomplish things others couldn't. I started to gain confidence, talked more and felt better about myself in general.
Within a few years, I had run a handful of half marathons and a couple of full marathons (42.2km), and became as much a part of Yo Bro as Joe (first to arrive to class, last to leave). I hit a point where smoking weed wasn't fun anymore. I wanted to do what everyone wanted me to do - quit! And I did. It was far from easy, I didn't eat, sleep or feel normal. I felt insane, emotional and unsure of what to do with my time, but slowly that faded, and I began to feel on top of my game. I had done it. Now 2015, I am a Senior Mentor in Yo Bro, I do presentations and help teach kids alongside Joe. I have a blue belt and still continue to run marathons. I am interested in attending college or university to learn science. I have a beautiful, smart girlfriend who shares my love of the program and is in university. I am at a point I never thought possible to reach, and I am thankful for all of the opportunities I have been given, and will continue to make you all proud.
Special thanks to Joe & Brenda Calendino, Trevor Stokes, and my mom, who believed in me and help made it all possible.
Postscript to Willy’s letter:
By demonstrating his will and commitment to succeed, Willy has gained the confidence and support of many people connected to Yo Bro. Starting in January 2016, Willy is being mentored by a member of the Delta Police Department (Ken) and a member of the Vancouver Fire Department (Manny) to obtain his Class 1, 3, and 5 driver’s licences. He has also received a full time job at Global Transport. Congratulations Willy! Hard work is not good luck. You have earned this and we wish you every success in life and career!